The Amish Hitchhiker

“Could you give me a ride downtown?”

Thus began my mini-moral dilemma. I didn’t know the large, elderly Amish man who happened to be trudging by my house as I opened the front door to let the frantically barking Chaussette in. At first we’d just exchanged friendly waves—standard procedure in my interactions with the local Amish population—and then he asked for a ride. Despite dire warnings from friends and relatives when we’d first moved out here, none of our Amish neighbors had ever asked us for anything; in fact, they’ve always been extremely generous. So I was caught off guard by the question.

I wavered. I WAS about to drive to my son’s babysitter’s house, but going into town was out of the way. I didn’t know him. My car was a mess. I’d never driven an Amish person before. Excuses flooded into my mind, and after I told him I couldn’t, he went on his way.

Sage saw through me. “We can give him a ride,” he pointed out.

I remembered the Amish farmer down the road who had stopped what he was doing, hooked up a team of horses, and pulled my car out of the ditch a month or two ago. He was under no obligation to help me, and he probably had a hundred more important things to do, but he did it anyway. Thanks to him, I was spared a hefty tow truck fee and was only slightly late for work.

Sage was right. We weren’t in a particular hurry. The route through town, although slightly longer, featured better plowed roads. (The day had left a slushy mess on most, although my road had recently been plowed out.) I hate to admit it, but the roads, rather than moral obligation to help others in need, were the deciding factor. I sent Sage and Chaussette running to catch up with him while I got my coat on. All four of us—man, dog, child, and I—piled into the car, and we were on our way to town.

The man introduced himself as Irwin, the nephew of my elderly neighbors, and he proved himself an affable but loquacious passenger. I learned more than I’d ever cared to know about how much full milk jugs weigh and their effect on Irwin’s back over the years, but the trip was uneventful. I dropped him off at the gas station, filling up my tank as long as I was there anyway, and continued to our destination.

Irwin did me a favor, it turned out. The roads on the town route weren’t totally clear, but after I dropped off my son and used the usual back roads for the return journey, they were looking heavenly by contrast. As I slowly maneuvered my Protégé through the inches of clinging slush on the unplowed roads, I wished I’d gone back through town too. It was too late, though, and I was obliged to inch my way painfully until I hit the blessedly clear road to home. It was a harrowing journey, but thanks to Irwin, I only had to make it once.

Kindness, it turns out, has its advantages.


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